Chris NilsenNewsTrack & Field

Yet Another U.S. and Australia Pole Vault Tie, As Chris Nilsen and Kurtis Marschall Both Jump 5.95 Meters and Share Bronze

by Brian Pinelli

Chris Nilsen hypes up the crowd during the men's pole vault finals at the 2023 World Athletics Championships on Aug. 26, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Team USA)

It happened – yet again – as the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Land Down Under’ were inextricably linked to a world championship pole vault competition.

Armand “Mondo” Duplantis proved himself, once again, as the undisputed ‘King’ of the pole vault, soaring to his second consecutive title at the World Athletics Championships. However, it was Team USA’s Chris Nilsen and Australian Kurtis Marschall finding themselves deadlocked at 5.95 meters, after both faltering three times attempting 6.00 meters.

There was no friendly discussion needed, as was the situation just three nights ago between Katie Moon and Nina Kennedy, who mutually agreed to share gold, after both clearing 4.90 meters and deciding to forego a jump-off in the women’s event. Nilsen and Marschall both claimed bronze – finishing the night exactly tied for third – based upon achieving the same height and having an equal number of total misses on their scorecards.

“Sharing is caring right now, apparently, when it comes to Aussies and American medals right now,” Nilsen said, shortly after the competition. “I’m just really happy to be back on the podium,” said the 25-year-old, noting his world championship silver in Eugene, Oregon, last summer.

“It just one of those things – I’ve never actually tied at a meet before,” Nilsen continued. “Kurtis is a great guy, we drink coffee together, beers together, and we’ll probably have a couple of brews tonight. 

“The whole Australian team has always been super nice to me and my friends.”

Marschall – who set a personal best on the evening – shared similar sentiments about his fellow bronze medalist.

“I can’t believe it’s panned out this way – honestly I couldn’t be happier to share it with Chris, he’s like an icon in the sport,” Marschall, who lives and trains in Perth, Australia, said. “I honestly thought he was going to jump six meters and steal it from me.

“Just before our final attempts at six meters, I walked up to Chris and said, 'You and me, we got this and we were both like come on, we got this together.’ Unfortunately, we both just missed.

“I’m just so stoked to share it with one of my best mates,” said the 26-year-old Aussie.

Duplantis and the tight fraternity of pole vaulters once again delivered a thrilling show, while proving the old pole vaulters’ adage that the ‘sky is the limit.’ Ernest John Obiena of the Philippines matched his personal best of 6.00 meters and set a new Asian record to win the silver medal behind Duplantis. It was the first time in history that a vaulter cleared the six-meter barrier and lost a competition.

The Swedish-American Duplantis, in addition to his uncanny ability to fly higher than anyone else in the event, was once again the mark of consistency. The 22-year-old pole vaulting phenom skyed over six consecutive bars, and when Obiena missed his third attempt at 6.10 meters, Duplantis secured his second world title, with a winning jump at that mark shortly before.

Chris Nilsen competes during the men's pole vault finals at the 2023 World Athletics Championships on Aug. 26, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Team USA)

The pole vault phenom was humble, applauding his competition, more than a few who achieved personal best heights.

“These guys just jumped too well and they pushed me really hard,” said the Olympic champion and now two-time world champion. “I had to take some jumps and it was a tough competition tonight.

“These guys are really young – I know for the next couple of years these guys are really going to be pushing me hard.”

Duplantis, coached by his father Greg, he proceeded to raise the bar to a world record height of 6.23 meters (20 feet 5 ¼ inches). Photographers, fans and fellow athletes scurried for position to potentially witness the seventh world record of Mondo’s already illustrious career. Despite a near capacity crowd at the National Athletics Center in Budapest, Hungary, urging on his every step, Mondo missed his three efforts, in a competition that lasted more than two hours in the sticky evening heat.

Nilsen elaborated upon the high quality of the final on Saturday night.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s ever taken 5.95 on a first attempt to tie for third at a world championship,” said the 6-foot-3 U.S. pole vaulter. “The level just keeps going up and up.” 

“Everyone is pushing the bar up, for sure Mondo is great, but I’m pushing my limits, Kurtis is pushing his limits, Ernest is pushing limits and Mondo is leading the charge. It’s less than a solo act, and more of an army of people evolving.

I don’t know how long it can continue, because were starting to break the laws of physics here as everyone is getting better,” he said.

Nilsen added a second outdoor world championship medal to his silver medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, finishing runner-up to Duplantis.

At last summer’s world championships in Eugen, Oregon, Duplantis thrilled U.S. fans breaking a world record with a then unprecedented height of 6.21 meters (20 feet 414 inches). He improved upon his world record earlier this year on Feb. 25, leaping 6.22 meters (20 feet 434 inches) indoors in France.

Duplantis won’t put a specific number on just how high he can go, moving forward and with the Olympic Games Paris 2024 not too far down the runway.

“I’m never really thinking about that right now – I’m just happy to walk away with a second world championship medal, get the job done and come out on top,” Duplantis said.

The legendary Sergey Bubka won six pole vault world titles over the first six editions of the world championships. The young pole vault superstar was asked if this is a record he can reach.

“I guess that would be nice – I think have a few more to go,” Duplantis said. “I’ll probably worry about three, and then four, before I start thinking about six and getting too far ahead of myself.”